Artbeat

Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

When is an art exhibition not an art exhibition? Don't look to Broward Community College for the answer. The school's downtown Fort Lauderdale campus is currently displaying what may or may not fit the bill, depending on your specifications. The invitation to the opening of "Identity: Correspondences & Complexities"bills it as the BCC Faculty Art Exhibition 2005 (and includes the misspelling "coorespondences" twice). On a recent visit, however, Artbeat got conflicting information on whether the show was a one-nighter or still on view. One staffer seemed unsure whether it even existed. Two others agreed that the art would probably remain up "at least a month." Further complicating matters: a "venue" that consists of corridor walls, a boardroom, and other common areas on the 12th floor of the Willis Holcombe Center. And in a gesture as wrongheaded as it is generous, curator Jill Thompson, who teaches architecture and design, opened the exhibition to faculty members whose specialties include anthropology and business administration (as well as to herself). The result is a neither-fish-nor-fowl mishmash in which, not surprisingly, the standouts are works by art professionals. Rick McCawley, who teaches graphic design, contributes some slick but beautifully executed photographs, and Jim Lansing's lovely Diptych, Blue and White uses two simple stoneware platters to confirm the old idea that less is often more. If there's a potential star here, it's McCawley's colleague Alicia Sobchak. Her series of digital illustrations is nothing special, but the digital print Insha'allah boldly critiques Islam's perceived misogyny. And taken together, A Book of Songs, which the artist designed, printed, and bound by hand, and the digital video Eight Songs I Sing suggest that Sobchak has a restless creative curiosity that merits a better showcase than this misguided little show. (On display at the Willis Holcombe Center, 12th Floor, Broward Community College, 111 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-201-7540.)

Now on Display

To her fans, Michelle Newman's exhibit at the Cornell Museum in Delray Beach's Old School Square is a dream come true. For the rest of us, her collection of hand-decorated textiles and garments is merely an inspired mix of colors and clothes that have been hand-dyed, woven, silk-screened, and painted on. That's a good thing. Newman, a Miami Beach native, has appeared on every DIY-driven channel, including TNN, HGTV, and the Discovery Channel. There's a fine line between a flattering imitator and a copycat, a line that Newman sometimes walks but never actually crosses. In a work labeled Peter S. Melusy, she has taken a piece of cork, silk-screened a photo onto it, cut it in strips, and woven it with yarn to create a work of art. It is unusual, rough, and, because it's so quixotic, definitely worth a look. In the same room are three beautifully complex pieces inspired by Ballet Russes that are red, rich, and luxurious. Newman completes each one in several steps, from screening to batik-style dyeing to painting. Several of the pieces include how-tos. The exhibit, for all its brilliance, ends up being colorful, pretty, and funky. (Through May 21 at Old School Square's Cornell Museum of Art and History, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-243-7922.)

Magdalena Abakanowicz's 95 Figures stand in diagonal rows, like bronze sentinels on the second floor of the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale. The human-sized sculptures provoke a heavy sense of foreboding. Some take a step; others are static. They're all headless and armless. The work is easy to appreciate for its largeness, the precision of the figures' placement, and its ability to draw a visceral reaction. The urge to climb in and stand among the figures, to be amid the crowd and absorb the mob's purpose, is almost irresistible. At the same time, the work provides no pleasure or enjoyment. There are five other pieces displayed with the figures. One at the end of the hall leading to the exhibit, The Second Never Seen Figure on Beam with Wheels, is looming and unique, a perfect counterpoint to the crowd. If you stand behind the figure, it is perhaps the best view of the crowd streaming in front of you. Abakanowicz grew up in Poland in the 1940s, during the Nazi rise to power, and she still lives in Warsaw. It could be the exhibit's placement or the artist's biography, but a strong, perhaps incorrect, impression is left that the members of the crowd are victims. (Through October 30 at the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, One E. Las Olas Blvd. Call 954-525-5500.)

"Christo and Jeanne-Claude: The Würth Museum Collection": The works of Christo and his wife/collaborator Jeanne-Claude -- notably their projects of wrapped monumental structures -- have to be seen in context. They manifest much of their sublimeness through the ephemeral and temporary nature of their existence. This show of 65 collages, drawings, photographs, and scale models from the W├╝rth Museum Collection will hardly provide viewers with the profound aesthetic experience of seeing the real, finished installations. But what this exhibit can do is display compelling documentation of the technical requirements and processes that eventually lead to the completion of their ambitious projects, from their Wrapped Coast in Little Bay, Australia, to their most recent project, The Gates (7500 saffron fabric panels suspended from frames that snaked throughout the pathways in New York's Central Park). (Through June 26 at Bass Museum of Art, 2121 Park Ave., Miami Beach. Call 305-673-7530.)

"In a Dark Manner: 1998-2005": The drawings of Mexican painter Hugo Crosthwaite borrow from plenty of disparate sources: José Guadalupe Posada, Mexican novelétas, Baroque figuration, daguerreotype, and the Mexican fascination with death. Imagine this narrative against the hackneyed urban landscapes of contemporary Tijuana, a surrealist collage of decay and misery -- as if out of Paco Ignacio Taibo's noir novels. Crosthwaite's explorations of today's actual issues in Pescadores (dealing with prostitution on the U.S.-Mexican border), Beso Escondido (looking at transvestism), or in his Bartolomé (refracting the Abu Ghraib scandal) are momentous and -- against all this human drama -- even hopeful. (Through May 30 at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, 169 Madeira Ave., Coral Gables. Call 305-444-4493.)

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